Kleptomania is defined as the irresistible impulse to steal unneeded items. It is a mental health disorder that psychiatrists currently consider an impulse control disorder. Newer statistics on kleptomania now indicate that the condition is more common than originally thought.
Kleptomania is different from regular theft in a few ways. People with this condition do not steal out of material need, nor do they steal for fun or out of anger. Instead, act on a growing, intense desire to steal. This pressure is only relieved when they steal an object. While individuals with kleptomania usually feel pleasure in the moment of the act, they often experience guilt or shame afterward.
Today, kleptomania is still a poorly-understood condition. Learning additional facts on kleptomania can help people better understand the condition and learn more about who might be at risk of having it.
Prevalence of Kleptomania
Because of the nature of the disorder, statistics on the prevalence of kleptomania are challenging to determine. The condition can be difficult to detect because people with kleptomania often steal objects of little or no value, so their actions frequently go unnoticed. Kleptomania is also often dismissed as shoplifting, petty theft or poor impulse control.
The latest estimate is that 6 in 1000 people in the United States have kleptomania. This number constitutes approximately 0.6% of the population, or about 1.2 million adults as of 2004.
- Kleptomania in Men vs. Women. Women are much more likely to have kleptomania than men are. Around 63% of people who report having the condition are female.
- Age of Onset. Typically, a person with kleptomania begins showing symptoms in their late teens or early adult years. The average onset age of kleptomania is 17 years old. However, kleptomania’s age of onset can vary widely. Symptoms have been reported in children as young as 5 years old, while some people say they didn’t notice symptoms until the age of 55.
- Kleptomania Among Children and Adolescents. About one-third of people who have kleptomania report that they started showing symptoms of the disorder as children. Most, however, begin showing symptoms in late adolescence.
Kleptomania and Co-Occurring Disorders
Kleptomania frequently co-occurs along with other mental health disorders. Often, individuals with this and other mental health conditions condition have a history of child abuse, troubled relationships and high levels of stress. All these factors may cause a person to develop multiple mental health conditions from the same underlying causes.
Kleptomania and Mood Disorders
Individuals with this condition frequently suffer from mood disorders in addition to their impulse control disorder. Major depressive disorder is by far the most common mood disorder that co-occurs with this condition, affecting around 35% of people with kleptomania.
Kleptomania and OCD
Kleptomania and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) share several traits. OCD is common in people with kleptomania. Around 7% of patients with OCD also have kleptomania. Some common symptoms of both disorders include:
- Intrusive thoughts
- Pressure to perform specific actions
- Ritualistic behaviors
Kleptomania and Impulse Control
Currently, the American Psychiatric Association considers kleptomania to be an impulse control disorder. Other impulse control disorders co-occur in between 20–46% of people with kleptomania.
Kleptomania and Personality Disorders
Some studies have shown that up to 43% of people who live with kleptomania also have a personality disorder. Common co-occurring personality disorders include paranoid personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder.
Kleptomania and Bulimia
A strong correlation exists between kleptomania and bulimia nervosa. As many as 65% of individuals with kleptomania also suffer from this eating disorder. Both kleptomania and bulimia involve some similar behaviors and symptoms, such as:
- Uncontrollable urges
- Feelings of guilt or shame
Kleptomania and Substance Abuse
Substance use disorders are common among people with kleptomania. Approximately 23% of people with this condition also misuse alcohol or drugs of all types. The link between kleptomania and substance abuse may be genetic. Some of the substances commonly used by people with kleptomania include:
Economic Impact of Kleptomania
Kleptomania is thought to account for 5% of shoplifting losses in the United States. In 2017, shoplifting resulted in $13 billion in damages for retailers, accounting for 36.5% of inventory loss. Indirect expenses, such as health care, psychological treatment and legal fees can also add to the cost of kleptomania.
Kleptomania Treatment and Outlook
Individuals with kleptomania rarely seek treatment for the disorder. Kleptomania is usually only diagnosed and addressed when a patient seeks help for another, sometimes related, mental health disorder. In most cases, kleptomania must be diagnosed and treated by a trained mental health professional.
Once diagnosed, kleptomania treatment options focus on controlling impulsive thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial, as can rational emotive therapy. Sometimes, prescription drugs like fluoxetine (Prozac) or naltrexone (Revia) can help reduce impulsive thoughts. The prognosis of kleptomania is still not well understood since people usually do not seek out treatment for this disorder.
If you or a loved one live with co-occurring kleptomania and addiction, specialized treatment is available. Reach out to The Recovery Village today for more information.
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Aboujaoude, Elias; Gamel, Nona; and Koran, Lorrin M. “Overview of Kleptomania and Phenomenolog[…]ption of 40 Patients.” Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2004. Accessed April 11, 2019.
Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. “Kleptomania.” Accessed April 11, 2019.
American Psychiatric Association. “What Are Disruptive, Impulse-Control and Conduct Disorders?” January 2018. Accessed April 11 2019.
www.pricegun.com. “Shoplifting is America’s #1 Property Crime.” 2014. Accessed April 11, 2019.
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Grant, Jon E. and Odlaug, Brian L. “Kleptomania: clinical characteristics and treatment.” Brazilian Journal of Psychiatry, 2007. Accessed April 11, 2019.
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